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Voices of Search Podcast Episode 28: 2019 SEO Predictions – Long Form Content Refactoring

Episode Overview

In the second episode of 2019 SEO Predictions Week Jordan and Ben tackle what’s likely to happen with long form content refactoring.

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Episode Transcript

Ben:                 Welcome back to SEO predictions week on the Voices of Search Podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering our bold SEO predictions for 2019, but before we get started, I want to remind you that this Podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. To support you, our loyal Podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic, a member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website, content, and SEO strategies can be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                 Okay, joining us again for SEO predictions week is Jordan Koene, who is the lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc. today we’re going to continue telling you about our bold predictions, specifically about how Jordan thinks Google will refactor and reevaluate your content. Here’s the second installment of SEO predictions week with Jordan Koene, CEO of Searchmetrics Inc.

Ben:                 Jordan, welcome back to 2019 SEO predictions. It’s great to have you back on the show.

Jordan:             Thanks Ben.

Ben:                 Awesome, so in our last episode we talked about an algorithm prediction that you made and actually we kind of broke that down into two predictions, which is in the first half of the year there’s going to be a little refactoring and Google’s going to be focusing more on integrated search and then the back half of the year Google’s going to be looking at external sources like social media that are going to impact what rankings look like.

Ben:                 Today I want to turn our attention more to what are some of the predictions you have for content, how do you think Google’s going to consider content in a different way in 2019?

Jordan:             So, the prediction here is really focused on a segment of content, and that is long form content. So, the Wikipedia style-esque content that we’ve all become very accustom to reading, seeing, and digesting within search.

Ben:                 So, go into a little bit more detail for me, what do you think is going to happen with long form content?

Jordan:             So, it’s not uncommon for Google to focus on a content type or form, so just think of a few years ago, there was a ton of emphasis on news related content, the introduction of AMP, the introduction of different ways to digest and rank news form content. Not just based on speed factors like AMP, but other elements as well prior to the introduction of AMP. It’s not uncommon for Google to say, hey we’re going to focus on a type of content and try to use different factors to better understand what piece of content would be the best quality. Specifically what I would expect to see from Google with long form content is that they will start to dissect a particular page to really understand what elements of this long form piece of content are the most valuable. What is it that’s actually driving the most considerable value for the user and the reader and do I need to be ranking this piece of content for that particular benefit or the entire page?

Ben:                 What’s interesting to me, is as I think about how people are using search, you know we’ve talked a lot about search is becoming more on demand, how people are using mobile and looking for short answers and direction. So a lot of the knowledge graph type integrated search experiences are becoming more prevalent. Your prediction here is around the refactoring of long form content. I would’ve guessed that Google would be prioritizing short form content, right, how do we get more quick answers? How do we get more information to people in a short period of time, but essentially what you’re suggesting is Google’s going to do a better job of mining longer pieces of content for the Gen’s and filtering out some other stuff that’s going on there?

Jordan:             That’s right and I think that this actually makes a lot of sense when you look at the evolution of content and how, not only search engine marketers but also editorial and content teams have looked at content and in making it more relevant. The ideology out there is that, the more content you produce, or the longer the content that you produce, is the better it will perform. Part of that is what I like to call the Wikipedia syndrome which is you try to model yourself after Wikipedia just because Wikipedia is A, one of the most over used resources for content production out there, and B, it is one of the most visible websites on the planet.

Jordan:             So, people kind of try to model themselves after that, but what Google’s going to try to do here, and this is what’s really important, is that Google’s going to try to start to understand where the value within the content exists. They’ve already done that with say, taking out ordered lists or other elements of the page and putting it into integrated search which we talked about in the previous episode, but this goes well beyond that, this goes into understanding different body sections of the content, understanding maybe even certain user habits when it comes to certain content and also looking at maybe, possibly, other data sources that they already have, like data they might have in Chrome to understand how far people scroll on a page.

Jordan:             I know that sounds a little creepy but it’s not too far-fetched and why wouldn’t you use that data to create a better experience?

Ben:                 Yeah, I think what’s in my head is, for the SEO’s that are also the content marketers or the people that influence their content marketing strategies, if Google is going to start taking out passages or ranking specific passages within a longer form piece of content, should I prioritize going back over my existing content? Should I prioritize making more long form content? Or should I prioritize just making shorter form content because that’s likely to rank because people are looking for quick wins?

Jordan:             That’s a great question and that’s a really hard one to answer because, although I am predicting that Google will focus on segments of content within a longer form piece, it’s really hard to know how they’re going to reposition the ranking factors to focus on that. So it may very well be that we’re sitting here having conversations 3-6 months from now around individuals actually reducing the scope of their long form content or minimizing the content, or decoupling content, so taking one section of the content putting it on one URL and then taking the other section of the content putting it on another URL. We may be having that conversation, but I genuinely believe that Google will be refactoring to understand certain elements of the page and not necessarily just looking at the URL itself.

Ben:                 As the non-SEO expert in the room, my guess is is Google gets it right, what they’re going to try to do is just get rid of content bloat, right, where people are just key word stuffing and making long form content for the sake of content. Now whether they build the algorithm so that actually happens or whether they prioritize short content or reprioritize long form content to be better, who knows, but I would have to imagine that, that’s the intent. That what they’re trying to do is get people to stop writing long form content that is just too long and doesn’t serve a purpose.

Jordan:             That’s absolutely right Ben, but in that realization, Google likely knows that there is something of value on these pages and historically, right, if we all go back in the history books of Google, Google’s adjustments, it started off where Google would literally refactor or readjust based on entire industries and they still do that to some extent. Then they went to specific domains, so remember, I mean some of you may even remember, there was domain level penalties or domain level attacks that really reduced the rankings of the entire website. Now Google’s at a URL level. Google will literally refactor and reposition at a single URL level and so it’s not too far-fetched to say that Google’s now going to refactor based on paragraph three on URL XYZ. That’s where we’re at today.

Ben:                 So how would you advise, I know that this is all speculation, it’s a prediction, but how would you advise SEO’s to prepare to adjust their strategies when you have to look at individual paragraph level performance?

Jordan:             So, one of the things that we work with a lot here at Searchmetrics is on your content production journey and your process. So looking at the strategy that you use to produce content and then also, what is the strategy you’re using to update content. A lot of sophisticated editorial content teams, and search marketers have reached a point now where they’re not just producing content and then forgetting about it, they’re actually coming back and they’re adding more, adding more, adding more, and in some cases even consolidating other sources of content to have one really well structured URL. The transition here is going to be one where you now have to look at other data elements to understand what content is of most value on that page and likely single out that source or expand that piece of content which may mean deprecating content within the page.

Jordan:             So, let me summarize that for you Ben really quickly, what that means is, you’re looking at certain data points like maybe a heat map on a page or you’re looking at where in the body of a piece of content users are engaging the most. Say they may be clicking on certain URL’s or clicking on certain products, where is that happening most frequently and then you’re adjusting the rest of the page accordingly.

Ben:                 It just feels like Google is going to suck the summarizes out of every page and if you’re able to create a lot of good content and then you distill it down into one area of focus, a table, a great summary, that’s what Google’s going to pull out and rank, and you know like the purpose of long form content is to take multiple shots at producing one great paragraph that summarizes a specific topic.

Jordan:             It’s a big risk. I mean it’s a risk in your strategy of content production because ultimately you’ve produced something that has some value. There’s a reason why it ranks, there’s a reason why it gets traffic. So, when you’re going through your content update cycle, why you’re going to change a piece of content, it’s simply stated, an adjustment on when and why and how you’re going to change that content. The problem is, is which ones of those variables you use will likely be determined based on what Google does to adjust here, how they adjust and you know, it’s a prediction right? Right now we all know Google loves long form content and long form content prevails more often than not over short form content when it comes to rankings, but the reality is, is that Google likely will have to tweak that at some point, whether it’s 2019, or 2020 or later, to become more sophisticated in understanding what is the ultimate truth within this long form piece of content.

Ben:                 Yeah, I guess my take away here is that this is a prediction that is just a next level of what Google has consistently done. Where you mentioned before is that, they started with domain level penalties and then maybe it was down to page types and then eventually it was specific URL’s that they can penalize. Where Google is just getting more and more granular with what they evaluate and getting down into individual parts of a piece of long form content is the next iteration of the direction they’ve already been going.

Jordan:             Exactly, I mean, one of the big transitions here for Google in the last year is the introduction of AI and how they use AI. If you think about it, if Google’s capable of building certain personas that are consuming content in a certain way, they could literally create algorithmic adjustments using Ai personas in how they consume content. So it’s not too far-fetched to think that Google in this short future here is going to make adjustments, not necessarily based on how your entire URL performs but based on how one paragraph, or one element within your body performs.

Ben:                 That’s it, the robots are taking over.

Jordan:             Run, hide!

Ben:                 And one piece of content, actually not even one piece of content at a time, the robots are taking over one paragraph at a time and they’re going to start with long form content. That’s our prediction here and that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search Podcast. Thank you for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, the CEO of Searchmetrics Inc., we’d love to continue this conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Jordan you can find a link to his bio in our show notes, or you can contact him on Twitter where his handle is @JTKOENE.

Ben:                 If you have general marketing questions or if you want to talk about this Podcast you can find my contact information in our show notes or you can send me a Tweet @BENJSHAP.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic, online visibility or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategies team. If you liked this Podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your Podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your Podcast App and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning to share our predictions about how Google will evaluate the technology running your website. Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this Podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your Podcasts.

Ben:                 Okay, that’s it for today but until next time remember the answers are always in the data.